New artists can be intimidated by how much there is to learn. Professional artists know that art is a lifelong journey and you’re never really done learning. But when first getting started there can be an inner desire to improve as quickly as possible.
This is especially true for artists outside of high school who have less free time to practice.
The Proko Figure course is perhaps the absolute best resource for new artists who have no idea where to start.
You’ll often hear the same advice telling you to learn your fundamentals before attempting real projects. There are many ways to learn your fundamentals and the Proko course is just one avenue. You could also follow along with Draw A Box which is a free resource for learning the fundamentals.
But there’s a reason I recommend the Proko Figure Fundamentals course over anything else. It teaches material very similar to Draw A Box but you also learn how to practice figure drawing too.
This means you’ll learn how to draw from life(or reference) by breaking down shapes into forms. You’ll learn how to measure proportions and leave accurate marks on the page.
You can get so much from this figure course that it’s the #1 premium course I recommend for new artists.
Who Is This “Proko”?
Stan Prokopenko is a realist artist based in San Diego, CA. He works for the Watts Atelier which teaches a classical method of realism for both drawing and painting.
The first thing I always consider before purchasing a course or book is the creator’s artistic experience. Why would you want to learn from someone who’s not even very good at what they’re teaching? Sadly there are too many people like this in the art world, but Stan isn’t one of them.
He’s been practicing seriously since his early teens and his experience shows in his work.
You can find lots of stuff on his website and learn more about Stan in this interview with the Watts Atelier founder Jeff Watts.
But if you’re looking for work quality you can find hundreds of free videos on the Proko YouTube channel. Stan uploads smaller clipped versions of his lessons for free on YouTube. This follows the freemium model where everyone can watch some free content, but the full content is only available by purchasing his premium course.
After searching on various learning websites like CGMA and Gumroad I have to conclude that Stan’s method of teaching is the absolute best for a beginner.
Also Stan will help critique your work for each chapter if you’re running into trouble. He likely gets dozens of emails every day so I can’t guarantee a quick reply.
But if you look at the Proko FAQ page under “Can I get my work critiqued by you?” it says he will give personal critiques with priority to premium subscribers. Stan does have a Facebook group for student critiques but it’s still awesome to get a personal critique directly from the teacher.
This video course is made to help you learn figure drawing first and foremost. You’ll start with gestures and quickly ramp up to lifelike mannequins and fully-rendered figures.
The chapters break down like this:
Critiques(from other Proko students)
It’s strange to find the “prerequisites” section located so far down in the lesson plan. That content has more to do with how Stan sharpens his pencils and the materials he uses to draw. It’s not mandatory for everyone, although it’s helpful to see how a professional artist works.
The first 3-5 chapters cover introductory material. But nothing about this material is so basic that you’ll breeze past it quickly.
The first chapter “Gesture” is one you can return to over and over again. It has 30-second gestures and 2-minute poses for slightly longer drawings. But even 2 minutes is pretty quick, so you’ll be learning to capture gestures quickly and accurately.
It’s important to note this will take time. You could practice the Gesture lessons for months and still not perfect them. You should move on when you’re ready but keep returning to practice gesture as often as you can.
The Proko site even has premium model poses which you can buy in packs to get 1000s of individual high-quality photos to draw from.
Bean, robo bean, and mannequinization exercises force you to look beyond the pose and examine the forms. You learn how to break apart individual aspects of the anatomy to draw lifelike poses with realistic proportions. The critique videos show what other students have done which may help you learn from their mistakes.
The later videos teach how to finish realistic renderings. Proportions, measuring, and shading all relate to accuracy in figure drawing. These later lessons aim to make you a well-rounded artist so you can quickly capture gestures and render detailed life drawings.
Many of the fundamental artistic skills are covered in this series, albeit passively and through figure drawing exercises.
By drawing from the figure and breaking down the forms you’ll naturally learn about shape and form. Measuring proportions will force you to think about perspective. And if you get far enough into shading you’ll be thinking about light sources too.
Although this is a figure drawing course it does not cover anatomy in detail. Stan will sometimes mention the names of muscles, bones, and joints, but mostly to explain shapes and line choices.
If you want to learn about anatomy you’ll want the Proko Anatomy course. It has the same teaching style as this figure course so if you enjoy the figure lessons then I guarantee you’ll like the anatomy lessons too.
Learning online is quite different than learning in a classroom. Watching a video can show you how to do things, but it can’t answer your questions or fill in your gaps of knowledge.
I think Stan’s style of teaching is phenomenal. He brings up topics you might be thinking and he guides you with tips & suggestions for the best ways to practice figure drawing.
The instructional videos start with stan in front of a green screen explaining each step. He’ll tell you what you’re learning, why it’s important, and may even use visual cues to explain his point a bit clearer.
From there he’ll eventually move into a drawing view which splits the video screen in half with a model photo on one side and Stan’s paper on the other side. You’ll watch a close-up view of Stan as he draws each example from start to finish.
While he’s drawing you still get a voice overlay of him explaining what he’s doing. This is helpful because you can draw along with Stan and follow his directions for each video.
The other premium exercise videos just feature the split view with stan drawing from different figure poses. Some of these have voiceovers but many do not. These are not exactly “instructional” videos because you’re not learning anything new. They just give you more materials to practice from.
Exercise videos are complementary to the main course material. They feature background music behind Stan’s drawings and you can watch him complete each exercise from start to finish. These videos are made for you to practice and follow along once you understand the purpose of the exercise.
Every chapter has at least one instructional video where Stan explains what you’re learning in that chapter. You can move through these videos at your leisure to learn new methods of practicing from the figure.
Once you get through a few chapters you can start applying all the techniques you learn in later videos.
For example if you’re doing the robo bean you can practice that technique from any exercise video in the earlier chapters. This gives you a wide range of poses to draw from and helps solidify your knowledge of gesture drawing.
Some of the videos are a bit quirky with jokes sprinkled throughout. Some artists like this, others would prefer a more straightforward teaching style.
I personally enjoy the jokes because they break up the seriousness of the material. But don’t think for one second that this course is a joke.
Stan is a brilliant teacher and he really does lay down knowledge in a way that’s helpful and easy to consume. I can’t imagine that anyone would have trouble following his teaching style. It’s very thorough and it’s the best style of teaching I’ve found in any online art course.
Assets & Video Quality
When you buy the premium figure course you get access to a dashboard on the Proko website. From here you can stream or download the entire figure course at any time from any computer.
The direct download feature is a huge benefit for artists who want to practice without Internet. Just download the figure course videos to your computer and follow the lessons from anywhere.
All the videos come in HD 720p MP4 files. The newer Proko courses come in 1080p HD but I still think 720p is large enough to clearly see everything.
Stan includes a ton of exercise videos for each section. For example the bean drawing video on his YouTube page only introduces this concept. In the premium course you get 40 minutes of extra poses with Stan demo’ing how to draw each bean.
In a similar manner the robo bean comes with 30+ extra examples featuring poses that are relatively simple and extremely hard.
Every single video in the premium figure course is lengthier than the free video on YouTube. This means you’ll get extended lessons for every single chapter in the course, plus bonus lessons that are not even on YouTube.
With Stan showing you how to draw each bean you’ll be able to compare your work against his.
His gestures are also very clean and they’re a prime example of quality line work. If you’re able to mimic his style of gesture drawing you’ll get smooth lines, accurate proportions, and you’ll be learning the fundamentals without even realizing it.
I personally can’t nitpick a lot from what Stan teaches in this course. I believe the video quality is excellent and the course material is more exhaustive than any other course I’ve found online.
If you’re looking to teach yourself how to draw/paint at a professional level then this is the best video series to start with.
But since this is a review I feel the need to offer some negative points.
The biggest challenge new artists will face is the jump in quality over each video. This is to be expected, and I think Stan does his best to keep each chapter progressively more complex without jumping ahead too much.
Right around the mannequinization lessons you may find yourself hitting a wall. This doesn’t mean the course moves too fast. It means that early lessons need to be repeated hardcore until they’re burned into your brain.
You could spend 3+ months drawing gestures and robo beans and still not have them perfected.
If you bump into this wall don’t panic. Drawing is hard. It’s best to look over your current art and critique your stuff to see what you need to improve.
I was also hoping to see a bit more on the topic of rendering and shading forms. This course does get into the subject of light and shadow but it’s really a figure drawing course at heart.
For the price, high-quality content, and easy teaching style, I honestly can’t think of any major downsides to this course. The most I can say is that it’d be nice to get even more content, but the course itself is already packed with great material.
If you’re looking for poses to draw Stan gives you examples in every chapter. But if you want full photosets to draw from then download his model pose sets. These aren’t included with the figure course but they’re pretty cheap to grab separately.
The Proko figure drawing course is, in my opinion, the absolute best place to start learning how to draw well. These videos break down complex ideas into simple step-by-step exercises that you can practice on your own.
Stan has the work and skillset to prove he’s a competent teacher. Plus his teaching style is so direct and thorough that you shouldn’t ever feel lost or confused.
But it’s important to mention this course is not a miracle worker. It will not teach you everything—in fact no single art resource will teach you everything.
But if you follow these lessons and put in the work you will see drastic improvements.
Lesson content is generally geared towards beginners. However intermediate artists may still get something from Stan’s figure exercises. If you’re struggling with gesture or figure drawing then I’d recommend this course regardless of your skill level.
You can learn more on the figure course page and if you need a little peek of the Proko quality then check out his free gesture video on the ProkoTV YouTube channel. This free gesture video is half the length of the corresponding premium video so if you enjoy the free lesson you’ll definitely enjoy the premium content.
Don’t spend a penny on any other drawing course until you’ve tried Proko. I think figure drawing is the best place for beginners to start but there are other courses you can browse on the Proko website. Either way I would highly recommend this course for any artist who’s unsure of how to start learning to draw, or any artist who wants to focus specifically on gesture/figure drawing.